Monday, March 15, 2010

Aiken Polo Pony Race

When riders lined their horses up for the Post Trophy, the second annual Aiken Polo Pony race at the Aiken Trials, pretty much everyone knew there was one horse to beat. That horse, Eli Yale, was a 7-year-old Thoroughbred gelding who started his career on the racetrack before moving on to polo. In 2009, he took the inaugural Aiken Polo Pony race easily, setting a track record of 17 seconds for the 300-yard distance. His chief advantage then was that he got away so fast from the standing start that no other horse came near him. This year, he would be challenged by two of the same horses from 2009, along with three newcomers.

The polo pony race was the fourth on the card, scheduled to run between the three races for 2-year-olds and the two longer races for older horses. The sprint was 300 yards, the length of a polo field, with the start at the head of the stretch. The starter, Peter Krebs, lined the horses up, and then dropped his red flag. This time there would be no advantage for Eli Yale: the four horses on the inside of the track broke together and started their dash to the finish line. The two horses on the outside were caught a bit flat-footed, but were soon in on the chase.

It took only a few strides for Eli Yale to take the lead once again. Aztec, the second place finisher in 2009, was hot on his heels for the first half of the race, but by the time they went under the wire, it was Eli Yale all the way. He won by four lengths, bettering his 2009 time by 2.75 seconds. This lowered the track record to 14.25 seconds, and made the polo pony race, yard-for-yard, the fastest of the day.

Eli Yale is owned, trained and ridden by Pam Gleason, who plays polo at the Aiken Polo Club.

“In last year’s race, I just let him run,” says Pam. “This year, I wanted to see how fast he could go, so I asked him a little bit. He gave me a lot.”

Aztec, owned by The Aiken Horse, LLC, trained by Gary Knoll and ridden by Theresa King, was second. Third was Concepcion, owned, trained and ridden by Christine Cato. Tom Uskup, who came to the race dressed as the Easter Bunny, was fourth on a very good natured horse named Cederic. Party Til Dawn, ridden by Elissa Fridley and Callie ridden by Courtney Schwegler rounded out the field. Both horses are owned by David Smith.

The Aiken Polo Pony race was sponsored by The Aiken Horse.